Aside from their top two outfielders, the Detroit Tigers have a lot of questions to answer regarding the rest of the 2013 outfield rotation. Barring a potential trade of Jhonny Peralta, and once Detroit determines who will be the main man in left, the Tigers’ starting lineup for 2013 is essentially set in stone.
Now ask yourself: what do Brennan Boesch, Andy Dirks, and Quintin Berry all have in common? Easy – they all play corner outfield for the Tigers and happen to bat from the same side of the plate.
Guess what the Tigers won’t carry on their Opening Day roster? Also easy – all 3 of these guys.
One player was able to set himself apart from the crowd with a strong 2012 and that was Dirks. Dirks, despite missing a few months due to injury, hit .322 in 88 games of action, not to mention posting a stellar .377 on-base %.
Dirks has now played in 166 career major league games, just more than one full season of action. His totals look like this: .293 avg., 15 homers, 63 RBI’s, 90 runs, 31 doubles, and 5 triples. Dirks is a defensive asset as well and just one of those gamers that every team needs to have to get over the top. One other key for Dirks is that he hit .274 v. lefties in 2012, a very solid mark.
And for all of these reasons, Dirks is the odds-on favorite to break camp as the starting left fielder.
It’s too bad Boesch and/or Berry don’t know how to switch-hit. But last year, despite common misconceptions regarding Berry, neither of these players did much hitting of any kind.
Quintin, age 28, had a hot start in Detroit but ended up hitting just .258, which was right in line with reasonable expectations for his output. His on-base % was a decent .330, but with speed like his, it needs to be more.
After his quick start that had Motown in a frenzy over “Q”, he hit just .176 in August and .212 combined between September and October. And for good measure, looking completely over-matched in the playoffs, he hit just .192 during the postseason. During that 3-month stretch he had 0 homers (which we’re fine with if he’s hitting for average), 7 doubles, and just 7 RBI’s.
And to make matters worse, Berry hit just .214 v. lefties, which doesn’t make him nearly as diverse as Dirks.
Hitting woes aside, the biggest reason why Berry might break camp with the Tigers while Boesch might not is quite simply trade value. Berry has none. Boesch has quite a bit. Moreover, Berry can fill a niche as a pinch-runner, Boesch cannot.
Brennan will be entering his age 28 season in 2013 and is suddenly running out of time to make his mark in the major leagues. He has had periods of extreme production at the major league level, but none of that has come recently.
Entering 2012, Boesch was expected to do great things. Many predicted a .280+ average, 25 homers and a lot of run production. Instead, Boesch hit .240 with a pathetic .286 on-base %. He managed 12 homers and 54 RBI’s but eventually fell out of favor with Jim Leyland, rarely saw the field after mid-September, and was left off of the playoff roster altogether.
One of Boesch’s previous calling cards was his ability to hit lefties higher than league average. He managed just a .230 clip and 2 homers against southpaws a season ago.
As it stands right now, Boesch would have to come into spring training with a new head on his shoulders and hitting the baseball like it’s 2011 for him to have a legitimate shot at making the roster.
Creative GM’s across the league will be targeting Boesch and his still perceived upside in the coming weeks. Will the Tigers bite and trade him when his value is at its lowest point? The Tigers might be wise to pass, let Boesch work things out in Toledo, regenerate his confidence, and give him the first crack when somebody inevitably gets hurt.
If the Tigers do move Boesch, they should consider grabbing a right-handed hitting outfielder to take his spot. Especially since they have yet to convince themselves that Dirks is an everyday player.
Aside from Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter, and up and comers Avisail Garcia and Nick Castellanos, the Tigers have all lefty hitting outfielders. Garcia and Castellanos will almost assuredly start the season in the minors so that they can continue to develop and get regular at-bats.
The starting outfield of Dirks, Jackson, and Hunter looks pretty good. However, what backs them up is becoming cause for concern.
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